I belong to a new classification that is increasing rapidly. The new educated, unemployable people who cannot find jobs. We are the unnoticed. As a history person, I do not know of a time in American history, when a person with an education could not find a job especially when actively searching for one.
How is this so? I have a degree from one of the best colleges in the Nation? I also have a Master’s Degree. Regardless, I cannot find a job anywhere, although I have applied everywhere. I am a teacher. Not just a teacher, but “The Teacher of the Year” teacher, I received that prestigious award as a Black teacher in a White school district. I have been asked about that honor many times. “How did you achieve that award as a black teacher in a white school district?”
I replied, “My color did not matter. It is about how good of a teacher I am. I did my teaching job the best way I knew how. I received the award for being a great teacher.” But teaching is not about how good of a teacher I am. Teacher is all about money-not students as it should be.
School Districts employ millions of teachers across the Nation. Teachers are professionals; but, certainly not treated as such. In reality, teachers are pseudo-professionals. Pseudo means, “Not genuine-but having the appearance of.” Professionals are supposed to be valued, appreciated and compensated for their knowledge and experience. In teaching, education is demanded and appreciated, but not compensated.
Take public education for example-K-12. Better than ninety-five percent of teachers have college educations. A good part of those teachers also have advance degrees. School systems give teachers a specific amount of years after they are hired to earn their Master’s Degree. (Most schools do not offer educational reimbursement programs for teacher.) If a teacher earns a Masters’ before achieving a continuing teaching contract in the school district, frequently that teacher will be RIFFED (R.I.F.-reduction in force) as soon as possible by the School District. This is another was of saying, the teacher is laid-off.
School Districts do not want to pay teachers the differences earned for obtaining a Master’s Degree. The difference in salary is a substantial amount of money especially considering several teachers per year, achieve advance degrees. Therefore, School Districts recruit and hire new teachers, or beginning teachers. Such teachers are paid considerably less saving the district money.
Unfortunately, beginning teachers are untested as teachers. The school district does not know if they have hired a good teacher or hired a problem. These new or beginning teachers have little or no experience at all in teaching. More importantly, such teachers have no classroom management skills. As a result, it is not uncommon to find classrooms where the teacher is sitting in the hallway. The class is unattended because the teacher cannot handle the students. This is especially true in urban school districts and schools that have a high rate of special educational students, students with disabilities and students with free and reduced lunch . When problems occur, principals, assistant principals or other teachers must stop what they are doing with their own students, to help the stressed-out teacher cope with students. This creates a bad situation for everyone. Somewhere in the building, there are students that are not being attended to as a result of an incompetent teacher.
Teaching is not easy even for those of us who are gifted teachers. Teaching is a talent-a gift. Every person who has been a student knows of a teacher who should not have taught. Teaching is very demanding and a time-consuming vocation. The public sees teachers as having the best of all worlds:Paid vacation days, snow days, holidays, teacher workdays, and summers off-right? Preposterous and absolutely erroneous!
Teachers rarely get all the work demanded of them done in the school day. They are not sitting at their desks grading papers and doing lesson plans. During the day, teachers are actively teaching students! There is no time to grade papers, do lesson plans or even pee. In most high schools and middle schools (won’t even talk about elementary teachers-wow!), there are three or four minutes between classes for students and teachers. During these class changes, teachers have hall duties outside their classroom doors. When is there time in the day to grade papers or do other mandatory work? There is no time in the regular school day-except for a planning period or lunch. After one goes to the bathroom, gets lunch-both are over. This means all lesson planning, paper grading, test writing, entering of grades in the computers, talking to parents, talking to students and going to the potty, is done after school hours or; before school, weekends, holidays, snow days and of course summer vacations.
The tragedy of being a teacher is if one is RIF-ed because that teacher obtained an advanced degree, it is almost impossible to get another teaching job in any school district. To add insult to injury, if that teacher has years of experience teaching, there is no chance he or she will ever work as a teacher anymore in any district. Why? Because no school district wants to pay a teacher what they are worth. Football players make millions. Soccer players and baseball players’ salaries are just ridiculous. Basketball players make millions too, Lebron James is an example. I should be a small foreword for the Cleveland Cavaliers. But teachers! No district wants to pay them what a good teacher is worth. Still, the teacher is the first blamed because of the ignorance of students. We all know one bad teacher can ruin a lot of students quickly. Students are worth paying a good teacher? A good teacher is priceless. A good teacher reaches hundreds of students. A good teacher makes the difference in how a student learns. A good teacher can change a student and their future. What is that worth to a parent and child? But, school districts do not care. They see dollar signs-not students.
There are so many teachers like me. No longer able to find jobs to support their families. They have too much education to teach and way too much education to get a regular, non-teaching job. Tell me, how do we support ourselves? How can I help pay my children’s college tuition? How can I help my husband pay the bills when half of our income is gone and the same bill remain?
There are charter schools popping up everywhere. Many of these schools hire teachers for way less than they should be paid. These schools often demand that teachers do things that put their teaching certifications in jeopardy. These schools ask teachers to do things that legitimate school districts would not ask them to do. These teachers are dispensable. These schools know there is no market for “these” teachers. Then, if a teacher does not comply, they are not hired or fired. Many charter schools offer students excellent educations. Many deliver much less. Hundreds of charter schools fold around the United States everyday-only to pop up elsewhere.
In the meantime, I am about to lose my home, my car, phone service, one child had to drop out of college, my dignity and self-esteem. I am fighting to retain all. It is an everyday battle. My husband and I make too much to get grants and loans for our children’s colleges and too much for legal aid to help us keep our home. Yet, we make too little to refinance our house or get a loans. We have a non-lavish, country lifestyle where having a garden is a necessity to eat. We want to keep everything . Certainly, we are not making nearly what our education substantiates. When in American History has a teacher not been in demand in America?
Nonetheless, I am a teacher. I am a gifted and talented teacher. Still, I am also a member of the educated unemployables.